Church as "Community of the Shaken:" Tomas Halik and the Lost Sheep

Last year I spent some time reading the powerful book The Night of the Confessor by  the Czech Roman Catholic priest Tomas Halik. His readings of the Gospel in light of the Church today moved me to write four blog posts at Bible Junkies. I reproduce one of those posts here,Church as "Community of the Shaken:" Tomas Halik and the Lost Sheep,  with links to the other three at the end of the entry.

I have been reading for the past two weeks a book by Tomas Halik, a Czech Catholic priest and theologian, called Night of the Confessor.  I want to excerpt some passages from the book over the next few weeks, especially those dealing more directly with biblical themes, as this book is a challenge to Christianity as it is lived today, for those who are Christians and those who are not. At this point, I am not that interested in coming to any conclusions regarding Halik's work or his problems, but just giving a section of his work and asking some questions. I have found the book powerful, moving and, in the best possible sense, a shake-up. I also find that somehow, as the best spiritual writers tend to be able to do, he speaks directly to me.


Soren Kierkegaard, whom I regard as the first real prophet of the new path of faith - of faith as the courage to live in paradox - used to stress that in faith people stand before God as individuals. In his own loneliness, Kierkegaard experienced the paradox of which Jesus spoke: God is like the shepherd who left behind ninety-nine sheep and went off in search of "the one that was lost." Maybe today also God will tend to go after the "lost sheep," talk to their hearts, and carry them on His shoulders, accomplishing something out of their experience of "being lost and found again" that he could not achieve with the ninety-nine percent that never wandered, that is, those people who believe themselves to be in good health and therefore have no real need of Him - the doctor.

Yes, "the Church is a community," "christianity is not a private enterprise," and so on. We are all familiar with the rhetoric of the Church, and in a sense it is true, of course. However, I am increasingly convinced that the future face of the Church - a church that will fulfill the promises that "the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it" - will be more of a "community of the shaken" than the sharing en masse of an unproblematized tradition that is accepted as a matter of course" (Chapter 16: Second-Wind Christianity, Kindle Edition, 83%)

I have never really thought of how the "lost sheep" come back to the sheepfold and how they might change the sheepfold, transform it, and not just be transformed. Are we ready to be transformed by the "lost sheep"? Are we ready to let them do their work? What can their experience teach us, the 99% who think all is well? Are we willing to see ourselves as lost (if indeed we are) and not a part of the 99%?

What does it mean to be a "community of the shaken"? How does Halik see this community transforming the Church as it is and what does he mean by the Church being more than "sharing en masse of an unproblematized tradition that is accepted as a matter of course"?

See the other entries here:

The End of the Church as We Know It? Tomas Halik and "The Confessor's Night"

A Little Faith: Tomas Halik and the Mustard Seed

Tomas Halik and the “Kingdom of the Impossible”

Follow me on Twitter @Biblejunkies

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6 years 1 month ago
I am grateful to John Martens to making available to us the thought of Tomas Halik about contemporary Christianity as a "community of the shaken". What he describes is the proverbial 'elephant in the room' that no one is willing to talk about. As we witness our churches emptying out -- certainly the 'greying' of Catholicism -- it becomes clearer by the day that the old solutions will no longer work. A second generation has now turned away from the practice of institutional Catholicism: they style themselves 'agnostics'. Blaming the culture, blaming the times we live in will not turn things around. Fr. Halik, I believe, being someone who has lived under athetistic Communism, ordained 'underground' and having ministered 'underground' during a time of persecution, speaks realistically about the world we live in. For me, his thinking and his call to all of us to take the basic teachings of Jesus in the Gospels far more seriously than we do our theology and ecclesiology is utterly prophetic. He is the "voice of one crying in the desert" ... a voice that needs to be heeded.
John Martens
6 years 1 month ago

Thanks Ken. His voice, as one who suffered for the Gospel underground, is prophetic. He challenges us, as you say, to return to Jesus' teachings as our foundation for building on the rubble of cultural Christianity. When I read his work, I do not see this as a time of crisis for the Church, but a time of opportunity to live out the Gospel.


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